Standing on the 50

July 7, 2015


Peter SmythAs we enjoy the mid-summer break for the 4th of July holiday, it is only natural to take stock of how our industry has fared thus far in 2015. The first six months have been filled with the unexpected; from epic snowfall here in Boston to floods in Texas and drought in California, the weather has played an outsized role in economic performance this year. While no one weather incident was to blame, together they created uncertainty  for marketers as they planned and revised their strategies for their clients.

This uncertainty created a series of disappointing economic numbers in the first quarter and created further delay and caution in marketing plans during the second quarter. It looked like many advertisers waited until the last minute to act, creating a choppy ad environment for radio.

This certainly made the sales department’s job significantly more difficult as they struggled to provide forward guidance and forecasting. Many of the months in the first half of 2015 were not decided until the final week of the month.

But in recent weeks, we have started to see more clearly how the American economy is performing and there has been significant progress on a number of fronts, including job growth which has pushed the unemployment rate down to 5.3 percent. Housing prices are finally starting to increase, and consumer spending is picking up. It appears that we can carry this momentum into third quarter as economists expect both government and business spending to increase as a positive reaction to the improving economy.

Although Greece and the European financial ministers continue to play high stakes games with that country’s future, the betting is that after all the posturing and rhetoric has played out, there will be a resolution to this long-running soap opera. Whether it will be a band-aid or a longer term solution, no one can know.

However, with a favorable domestic economic climate, we expect that advertisers can more confidently lay their plans for the back half of the year. That means that our sellers can do a better job of advising, planning and executing for our clients and focus on outcomes and performance. With all the digital solutions that have burst onto the market, we have to be prepared to discuss much more than our stations’ ratings performance with clients. Our sales staffs must take the extra time to explain in detail how the broadcast and digital assets we can provide will work together strategically to create an effective and affordable marketing solution for their business, one that works for the client and is good for the listener.

Selling “time,” as it used to be called, has always been a matter of trust and creativity as much as it has been metrics and ratings.  Now, with even more tools in the arsenal, salespeople have to be on their toes as never before. They have to ask questions that probe beyond the surface, find out who their real competitor is – it probably isn’t the station down the block—and find out how the client will measure the success of his campaign. Too many times, salespeople do not take the time to collaborate with the advertiser to review and adjust creative for maximum impact on the station’s audience. It’s another one of those small items that can kill an otherwise well-crafted marketing campaign. The next six months can allow us to look back in December at a successful and profitable 2015, but it will take cooperation and creativity, along with excellent execution for each of our clients, to get us there.

Let’s make every opportunity count.